Tuesday & Thursday, 2:30 - 5:20 pm
Web address for this page:
5057 Woodward, Room 9309
Office hours: Tuesday and Thursday 1 pm - 2 pm, and by appointment
Melodrama is one of the most despised of all narrative forms, but also one of the most popular. It is commonly reproached for sentimentality, hyperemotionalism, sensationalism, and stereotyping. It seeks to reduce its audience to tears, rather than to make that audience laugh, or ponder issues, or feel invigorated by heroic fantasies. Yet melodrama has consistently appealed to audiences for something like two hundred years. In particular, melodrama has often addressed female audiences, and explicitly focused upon women's concerns. It generally takes place within, and is concerned with, the domestic sphere, which tends to be ignored by more male-oriented genres. Melodrama often raises questions -- in disturbing or embarrassing ways -- about gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, and social class. And it commonly needs to be read against itself, with underlying moods and emotions that contradict its obvious, highly conservative and conformist, themes. For all these reasons, many critics and theorists -- feminist theorists in particular -- have taken melodrama seriously, and positively re-evaluated it. In this class, we will look mostly at Classical Hollywood movie melodramas, together with a few contemporary ones, and a few from other countries and traditions. We will also read some of the important critical discussions of melodrama that have been published in the last forty years or so.
Class requirements include regular attendance, participation in class discussion, and completion of writing assignments:
- Two short exercises (1000 words each)
- Final paper (3000 words for undergraduates; 6000 words for graduate students)
By the end of the course, successful students will have learned about the history, aesthetics, politics, and influence of Hollywood movie melodramas.
In addition, by the end of the course successful students should be able to:
- Demonstrate in-depth knowledge of course topic(s).
- Demonstrate expertise in close reading, analysis, and argument.
- Think creatively and generate fresh perspectives.
- Conduct advanced research by developing a research question; locating, evaluating, and integrating primary and secondary resources; and placing project in the context of relevant scholarship .
- Write with fluency, clarity, and style.
In addition, by the end of the course successful graduate students should be able to:
- Write arguments that are coherent, organized, and consistent.
- Engage in scholarly conversations in the field as part of advanced research.
- Relate course knowledge to issues within English Studies.
- Successfully apply appropriate field-specific and interdisciplinary methodologies to the course topic.
- A Corner in Wheat (D. W. Griffith, 1909)
- Cowards Bend the Knee (Guy Maddin, 2003)
- Way Down East (D. W. Griffith, 1920)
- Sandy Flitterman-Lewis, "The Blossom and the Bole"
- Linda Williams, "Melodrama Revised"
- 7th Heaven (Frank Borzage, 1927)
- Peter Brooks, "The Melodramatic Imagination" (excerpt)
- Steve Neale, "Melodrama and Tears"
- Linda Williams, "Film Bodies"
- Green Light (Frank Borzage, 1937)
- Thomas Elsaesser, "Tales of Sound and Fury"
- The Mortal Storm (Frank Borzage, 1940)
- John Belton, "Souls Made Great By Love and Adversity: Frank Borzage"
- Now, Voyager (Irving Rapper, 1942)
- Maria La Place, "Producing and Consuming the Woman's Film: Discursive Struggle in Now, Voyager"
- Stanley Cavell, "Ugly Duckling, Funny Butterfly: Bette Davis in Now, Voyager"
- Lauren Berlant, "Remembering Love, Forgetting Everything Else: Now, Voyager"
- Stella Dallas (Henry King, 1925)
- Stella Dallas (King Vidor, 1937)
- E. Ann Kaplan, "The Case of the Missing Mother: Maternal Issues in Vidor's Stella Dallas"
- Linda Williams, "'Something Else Besides a Mother': Stella Dallas and the Maternal Melodrama"
- E. Ann Kaplan, "Reply to Linda Williams"
- Catherine Grant, "The Marriages of Laurel Dallas"
- Stanley Cavell, "Stella's Taste: Reading Stella Dallas"
- Leave Her To Heaven (John Stahl, 1945)
- Michael Renov, "Leave Her To Heaven: The Double Bind of the Post-War Woman"
- Mildred Pierce (Michael Curtiz, 1945)
- Pam Cook, "Duplicity in Mildred Pierce"
- Linda Williams, "Feminist Film Theory: Mildred Pierce and the Second World War"
- Letter from an Unknown Woman (Max Ophuls, 1948)
- Tania Modleski, "Time and Desire in the Woman's Film"
- Stanley Cavell, "Moments of Letter from an Unknown Woman"
- Caught (Max Ophuls, 1949)
- Magnificent Obsession (John Stahl, 1935)
- Imitation of Life (John Stahl, 1934)
- All That Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk, 1955)
- R. W. Fassbinder, "Six Films By Douglas Sirk"
- Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (R. W. Fassbinder, 1974)
- Written on the Wind (Douglas Sirk, 1956)
- Bigger Than Life (Nicholas Ray, 1956)
- Some Came Running (Vincente Minnelli, 1958)
- Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, "Minnelli and Melodrama"
- The Bridges of Madison County (Clint Eastwood, 1995)
- Tania Modleski, "Clint Eastwood and Male Weepies"
- Black Swan (Darren Aronofky, 2010)
- Steen Christiensen, "Pain & the Cinesthetic Subject in Black Swan"
- Veronika Voss (R. W. Fassbinder, 1982)
SECOND SHORT EXERCISE DUE
- Talk To Her (Pedro Almodovar, 2002)
- Despina Kakoudaki, "World Without Strangers"
- NO CLASS
- Prepare final essays
FINAL ESSAYS DUE